TimesUp on Bigotry and Hatred

On 21 January 2017, I spoke at the Women’s March on London. The anniversary is tomorrow and this year we at WML are saying #TimesUp on a gender pay gap, women’s inequality, discrimination, bigotry, all phobias, the policing of women’s bodies and what we wear, and a whole host of other issues. You can read our statement.

January 21 2017 was one of the best days of my life, never had I experienced so many people standing with me against all forms of discrimination. Below is the speech I gave, you can also watch my speech.

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“2016 was an awful year with the rise of dog whistle politics, xenophobic rhetoric and politicians and would be leaders who have rose to power on the back of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies these same politicians exploited fears and stoked up divisions, in the name getting our country back.

We saw the very real and dangerous consequences of the mainstreaming of xenophobic rhetoric and far right sentiments, with the brutal murder of Jox Cox.
Joe Cox was murdered for her passion for an inclusive society, for her belief that we have more in common.

I’m a British born Muslim woman. growing up in the 80’s I saw my parents regularly attacked by the National Front because of the colour of their skin.
Now 30 years later we are living in a climate of fear, being a Muslim woman is very challenging.
We face multiple challenges and multiple prejudices, from structural discrimination to the fact that we more than likely to experience physical and verbal abuse on the street just because of who we are and how we dress.
As of yesterday we have a leader of the free world who questions our right to be treated as equal citizens, who wants to deny our basic freedoms and fundamental rights.
All minorities, including immigrants, Eastern Europeans, LGBTQ communities have all faced a backlash from this new nasty politics of fear
It would be too easy to only focus on the negative, to feel despair and hideaway but do not lose hope.
Remember that Women have a long history of being at the forefront of fighting for equality and justice – as we are the ones who suffer the worst consequences of irresponsible men in power. History shows us that Women have changed the world, from the suffragette movement to Rosa Parks heroic act – and we can do it again.
Women’s rights are human rights – let’s unite across boundaries of faith, ethnicity, gender and sexuality – for equality and justice for all, in ways that are so powerful, that we will tear down the walls of division that are being built by those who seek to divide us.
We will not let bigotry and hatred overcome us.

This new era of world politics is an opportunity for us to come together not in protest, but in celebration of the strength that our diversity gives us and stand united for justice, equality and peace.”

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Akeela Ahmed named one of Stylist’s Women of the Year 2017: The activist who helped organise the Women’s March On London

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Image Credit: Stylist Magazine

So this week I was named one of Stylist magazine’s Women of the Year 2017. I still can’t quite believe it. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, love and uplifting messages received from friends and colleagues 💕 following the feature.

Being involved with, and speaking at the Women’s March London was incredible for so many reasons but it is only now that I reflect some 11 months later, that I understand just how deeply impactful it was for me – for the first time in my life I had been supported to stand up and speak against all the various injustices facing women today – in my own words and on my own terms. And on a huge platform to thousands of people, from all walks of life. That was, and still is today immensely empowering and transformative. For having created this space of solidarity, I have much love for all the amazing women involved in organising WML, who are and were so open and trusting.

With the feature in Stylist, I had the opportunity to speak again, freely without fear and without someone else’s agenda being imposed upon me. I hope the piece goes some way to progress the narratives and perceptions of Muslim women. Kudos to Stylist who featured not just me but two other inspirational Muslim Women. We really are better when we #StandTogether

Image credit: Stylist Magazine

Presentation on Far Right

akeela imams online conference

Earlier this year, I presented at the Imam’s online conference held at Google offices in London. I was glad that I had the opportunity to discuss the increase in Far Right extremism and anti-Muslim hatred.  You can click on the link below to read the presentation. If you will be using any of the information contained the presentation, then I ask that you credit myself by linking to this page.

Presentation of Far Right PDF

Speech given at Women’s March on London

On 21st January 2017 I opened the Women’s March on London with a speech about global political challenges and the power women in unifying humanity and to bring about change. This was the first time that I had spoken to such a large crowd – the Met Police estimated around one hundred thousand people marched that day.

Sorry it has taken me a while to post this up, I know some of you wanted access to the speech. Also this is the raw draft that I used to speak from on the day, so it is not written as an article.

“2016 was an awful year with the rise of dog whistle politics, xenophobic rhetoric and politicians and would be leaders who have rose to power on the back of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies.

These same politicians exploited fears and stoked up divisions, in the name getting our country back.

We saw the very real and  dangerous  consequences of the mainstreaming of  xenophobic rhetoric and far right sentiments, with  the brutal murder of Jox Cox. Joe Cox was murdered for her passion for an inclusive society, for her belief that we have more in common.

I’m a British born Muslim woman. growing up in the 80’s I saw my parents regularly attacked by the National Front because of the colour of their skin. Now 30 years later we are living in a climate of fear, being a Muslim woman is very challenging. We (Muslim women) face multiple challenges and multiple prejudices, from structural discrimination to the fact that we more than likely to experience physical and verbal abuse on the street just because of who we are and how we dress.

As of yesterday (20/01/2017) we have a leader of the free world who questions our right to be treated as equal citizens, who wants to deny our basic freedoms and fundamental rights. All minorities, including  immigrants, Eastern Europeans, LGBTQ communities have all faced a backlash from this new nasty politics of fear.

It would be too easy to only focus on the negative, to feel despair and hideaway but do not lose hope. Remember that Women have a long history of being at the forefront of fighting for equality and justice – as we are the ones who suffer the worst consequences of irresponsible men in power. History shows us that Women have changed the world, from the suffragette movement to Rosa Parks heroic act – and we can do it again. Women’s rights are human rights – let’s unite across boundaries of faith, ethnicity, gender and sexuality – for equality and justice for all, in ways that are so powerful, that we will tear down the walls of division that are being built by those who seek to divide us.

We will not let bigotry and hatred overcome us.

This new era of world politics is an opportunity for us to come together not in protest, but in celebration of the strength that our diversity gives us and stand united for justice, equality and peace.”

 

Open Call for Submissions from Muslim Writers

Like so many of you, we are gravely alarmed by the present administration’s recent broad ban on refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries. Our hearts ache for the innocent people affected…

Source: Open Call for Submissions from Muslim Writers

The real dangers of banning the burkini

During the French burkini controversy, I was asked by Mashable to give my thoughts on the dangers of banning the burkini. You can read my comments below and/or the full article here.

“These women are not a security threat, they’re just average French Muslim women,” Akeela Ahmed, a London-based equalities campaigner, said. “They’re penalising French Muslim women for the actions of terrorists. They either go to the beach and not swim or remain isolated in their communities at home.”

 

“Feminists need to get on board with the fact that Muslim women and what they decide to wear is a feminist issue. They should have the freedom to wear what they choose and feminists should call for equality for Muslim women,”

Tackling Ramadan With A Mental Health Condition

I just noticed that I was quoted in the article below, on surviving Ramadan with an eating disorder.

http://www.refinery29.uk/2016/06/114217/ramadan-mental-health

Here is my quote:

“There is still a huge stigma attached to mental illness, along with a lack of understanding of how it manifests and impacts on an individual,” says Akeela Ahmed, the former Executive Director of the Muslim Youth Helpline and campaigner on youth and gender issues. “So often friends and families can expect someone with poor mental health to fast. Most of the people I’ve worked with, who are dealing with mental health issues, feel guilty if they do not fast.”

According to Ahmed, the stigmas associated with mental illnesses in Muslim communities also means that those like Sofia are sometimes left in the dark when it comes to reconciling their conditions and their religious belief. “What I found when I was working with people who had eating disorders was that it wasn’t treated like other physical illnesses” she says. “If you’re physically unwell, then you don’t fast – but those who were dealing with mental illnesses would adjust their schedules to take their medication as part of their suhoor (morning meal) or when they broke their fasts.”

“From my experience, most Muslim people with mental health challenges receive very little support from either within their community or from mainstream agencies” she adds. “There needs to be more work done to tackle the taboo surrounding mental health issues and raise awareness about how to manage it.”

What 14 British Muslims think about the Charlie Hebdo attack

A few days ago I spoke to BuzzFeed about my reaction to the horrendous attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

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This is what I wrote:

“As a British Muslim I have been shocked and dismayed by the Charlie Hebdo attacks. This shock has reverberated throughout communities in the UK, and with it comes a sense of dread of what is to come in the aftermath. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. But I am also fearful that these attacks will fuel anti-Muslim sentiments and hatred. I pray and hope, that we will stand united against violence and hatred.”

http://www.buzzfeed.com/hkesvani/13-british-muslims-on-what-they-think-about-the-ch-ne8u#.voQ4AM5mj

Talking about IS and appealing for the release of Alan Henning

Recent Media Appearances

 

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Last week I signed a letter calling for the release of British hostage Alan Henning. I signed the letter foremostly as a human being, wanting to do something, no matter how small or insignificant to try and help Alan. I have no delusions that #IS would care about what a bunch of British Muslims had to say, but still it worth a shot.

As I can explain in various media appearances, I also signed the letter because I wanted to make it absolutely clear to others that the majority of British Muslims, in no shape or form, support or sympathise with the actions of IS.

Here are the media appearances:

  1. Today programme on BBC Radio 4: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04gwchh (listen from approximately 2 hours, 16 minutes).
  2. BBC World Service: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p026g1gf (listen from approximately 26 minutes in).
  3. BBC Radio 5 Live: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04h7kh5 (listen from approximately 15 minutes in).
  4. BBC Radio London 94.9: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0262s6h (listen from approximately 15 minutes in).
  5. Channel 5 news: Akeela Ahmed: What IS is doing is not in the Isla…: http://youtu.be/ErWa7gf4IfU

Equality and Human Rights Commission calls for evidence on religion or belief issues

Below is information I received about a call evidence put out by the EHRC for evidence on possible discrimination in the workplace due to an individuals faith or beliefs. I have heard that there haven’t been many Muslim responses, which is a shame as I know that this is a issue keenly felt by some within the Muslim communities, especially by men with beards or women who wear the hijab, as well as Muslims who openly practice their faith at work.

It is worthwhile completing the survey to provide evidence / insight into the complexities when dealing with faith at work or in a public place. Hopefully this in turn will provide some nuance and balance to the debate. Read below for more information and links:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently launched a major call for evidence to collect first hand experiences from individuals and organisations about how their religion or belief may have affected them in the workplace and in using the services and facilities they need in everyday life. The Commission knows that, despite a number of high profile cases involving the manifestation of religion or belief, very little is known about how frequently issues related to religion or belief occur in practice. To address this information gap we want to hear about the issues people face and how they find solutions to them. Particularly we want to hear about both negative and positive experiences which have occurred since 2010, including:

Has your religion or belief, or that of other people, affected your experiences in the workplace or the services you receive as part of your daily life? Or perhaps they impact on you as an employer or manager? If so, we want to hear from you, whether your experiences are good or bad.

We want to gather as much information as we can from employees, service users, employers, service providers, trade unions, legal advisors and religion or belief groups so that we can assess how a person’s religion or belief, or lack of it, is taken into account at work and when using services.

This major call for evidence is part of our three year programme to strengthen understanding of religion or belief in public life, to improve knowledge of what happens in practice and to make sure that the laws which are in place to protect everyone’s right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect are effective.

People can give their feedback at www.equalityhumanrights.com/religion.

Responses to the call for evidence can be made online until 14th October: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/our-work/key-projects/religion-or-belief-tell-us-about-your-experiences.

In October 2013, the Commission published Shared Understandings: a new EHRC strategy to strengthen understanding of religion or belief in public life, which can be found here: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/about-commission/our-vision-and-mission/our-business-plan/religion-belief-equality/shared-understandings-new-ehrc-strategy-strengthen-understanding-religion-or-belief-public-life

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